Category Archives: Quick & Easy

Mediterranean Kale & Garden Tomato Salad

It’s been a rather long hiatus, but a friend recently reminded me it was time to get back to the blog for more cooking inspiration.  Tonight, I was contemplating a cooked kale recipe with white beans to go alongside our sausage.  But it was a beautiful day after a soccer game, and cooked veggies seemed so heavy.  Then I remembered a kale salad I had tasted at Whole Foods a while back.  It was pretty good at the time, but I thought it had great potential to be excellent with some tweaks.

If you haven’t ever tried kale, you are truly missing out.  Kale is thought to be one of the oldest forms of cabbage, and native to the Eastern Mediterranean. It’s an excellent source of vitamin C,  iron, vitamin A, calcium, magnesium, potassium, protein, carbohydrates and dietary fiber.  If you’re not crazy for cabbage, don’t let that be a deterrent – it doesn’t taste much like it,  and it’s a superfood worth experimenting with despite its not-so-exciting appearance.  Watch it come alive after dressing or cooking!

This is the direction I went, and we could not stop eating it.  I can say with confidence, it’s our new favorite grilling side dish! It’s got it all.  Healthy, delicious, South Beach friendly, easy, and quick. Save one or two of your beautiful garden tomatoes for this – I like one red and one yellow, for spectacular color on your plate.  Sorry about the photo – time for a new camera!

GATHER THIS:

  • 3 cups kale, stems removed, chopped rather fine (about 1/2 inch pieces of leaves)
  • 2 medium tomatoes from the garden, diced 1/2 inch
  • 1/3 cup pitted kalamata olives, sliced
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts, lightly toasted*
  • 1/4 cup good-quality olive oil
  • juice from 1/2 a lemon
  • 1 small garlic clove, minced
  • 1/4 teaspo0n kosher or sea salt or more to taste
  • several turns fresh ground black pepper
  • pinch of red pepper flakes, to taste

DO THIS:

In a large bowl, toss together the kale, tomatoes, olives and pine nuts.   In a small bowl, whisk together the remaining ingredients.   Pour the dressing over the kale mixture; toss several turns until the kale turns a bright green color and begins to soften.  Let stand 10 minutes before serving at room temperature.   Excellent side dish for grilling – especially with Italian sausages.

Optional: sprinkle with 3 oz. of  crumbled feta cheese.

* To toast pine nuts, place them in a frying pan over medium heat for 5 minutes, tossing frequently, until the aroma fills the room and the nuts have a slight golden color on at least one side.  Do NOT leave the room.  Take care not to burn them; it can make all the difference and ruin your salad!  Remove immediately from the pan and allow to cool on a plate before tossing into your salad.

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Filed under From My Own Kitchen, Grilling, Healthy Recipes, Italian-inspired, Quick & Easy, South Beach Phase 1

White-Bean, Zucchini, Tomato & Parmesan Salad for Grilling

Just in time for your Mother’s Day, Memorial Day, July 4th, or Labor Day celebration! This quick, easy salad is packed full of flavor, healthy ingredients, and versatility. This will serve four as a side dish, and goes well with a simple grilled steak, salmon, or even chicken.  Originally inspired Martha Stewart’s  White-Bean Salad with Zucchini and Parmesan, I felt that adding one simple ingredient and a little more oil sent an already-delicious recipe over the top.  Perfect for people on South Beach Diet, or for anyone trying to eat healthier.

Admittedly, when I first read Martha’s version, I wasn’t sure how I’d like raw green beans and zucchini in a salad.  But, as the Iron Chef says: “with an open mind and empty stomach”, I recalled that I once had the pleasure of attending a cooking class offered by Chef Charlie Trotter, now known for his involvement in the raw food movement just before his book was published, Raw, (co-authored by Tim Turner). I’d also had the pleasure of dining at Trotter’s restaurant in Chicago  – and despite the big-ticket it came with – my socks were knocked off.

All of my doubts disappeared the first time I made Martha’s recipe, and as often is the case, I was inspired to make it even better.  This easy yet impressive recipe serves 4 as a side dish. I double-dog dare you to eat raw!

GATHER THIS:

  • 1 can (15 1/2 ounces) cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/2  pound zucchini (1 large), trimmed, quartered lengthwise, and thinly sliced
  • about 3 ounces green beans, trimmed and thinly sliced on the diagonal (2/3 cup)
  • 2 good, ripe plum tomatoes, seeded & diced
  • 2 ounces fresh Parmesan cheese, crumbled (1/2 cup)
  • 1/3 cup fresh basil leaves, torn
  • Grated zest and juice of 1 large lemon
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Coarse salt and fresh ground pepper

DO THIS:

In a medium bowl, place cannellini beans, zucchini, green beans, tomatoes, Parmesan, basil, lemon zest and juice, and oil; season generously with salt and pepper. Toss to combine.  I love this with grilled salmon or steak and a crusty Italian bread to soak up the extra dressing.

Note: The texture of the Parmesan in this dish makes all the difference.  I used Stella Parmesan, and crumbled it in my Cuisinart Mini-Prep Plus for perfect tiny bites of cheese flavor.  Shavings or grates just aren’t the same – and, at the risk of sounding like a foodie snob, if you are the canned Parmesan type… this recipe probably isn’t for you 😉

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Filed under All Other Recipes, Budget Friendly, Grilling, Healthy Recipes, Italian-inspired, Quick & Easy, South Beach Phase 1

Grilled Onion & Mushroom Salad with Arugula & Goat Cheese

I prepared this side dish to compliment my grill recipe Chicken Pesto Burgers with Tomato Topping, but it would also be excellent with grilled steak or other grilled meats.  It’s easy to prepare and comes together in less than 15 minutes, including the grilling time. It’s FANTASTICO!  This will serve 4 as a side dish.

GATHER THIS:

  • 1 large vidalia onion, peeled, & cut into 8 wedges, leaving part of the root intact
  • 4 oz. white or cremini mushrooms, quartered and stems trimmed
  • 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • coarse salt and fresh black pepper to taste
  • 3 cups loosely packed young arugula (large leaves are tough and bitter), rinsed and spun dry
  • 2-4 oz. crumbled goat cheese, as desired (I could eat the whole package with a spoon)
  • 2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts (pignolias)

DO THIS:

Preheat grill to medium.  In a medium bowl, toss together the onion wedges, mushrooms, 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, and salt and pepper.   Set aside and make the dressing.

In a small bowl, whisk together the remaining 3 tablespoons olive oil, the vinegar, sugar; season with coarse salt and fresh black pepper to taste.

Grill for about 10 minutes on a grilling rack or a vegetable basket, or until onions are slightly charred and mushrooms have cooked down a bit. Transfer to a serving bowl.  Allow to cool to room temperature; then toss together with arugula and dressing.  Top with crumbled goat cheese and sprinkle with pine nuts.

Note: if  you are unfamiliar with pine nuts, they usually can be found in the baking section of your grocery store, or with the display of Italian products next to pasta.  To toast, place them in a small skillet over medium low heat for 2-3 minutes or until just golden.

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Filed under French Recipes, From My Own Kitchen, Grilling, Healthy Recipes, Italian-inspired, Quick & Easy, South Beach Phase 1

Chicken Pesto Burgers with Tomato Topping

One of my summer choices for a healthy burger is this recipe – what was originally inspired by a recipe called Chicken Burgers with Warm Mushroom Salad. I thought the original burger recipe itself had potential, so I just changed it up a bit and made it even better.   Admittedly, I do my own thing on the salad –  I don’t think her salad recipe does the burger justice.  I followed the notion of involving mushrooms in the side dish, however, since it is in keeping with the Italian influence and compliments the burger well. Wait till you taste these!

I have to give credit where it’s due.  In her 2003 cookbook,  More Low-Carb Meals in Minutes, Linda Gassenheimer collected and created and some wonderful gourmet-inspired recipes that are appropriate for many of the more popular low-carb diets.  It targets diet crazes such as Protein Power, Atkins, and now, South Beach Diet. I refer back to this book frequently when I am in Phase One of the SBD, for something more inspiring than lean chicken and a pile of roasted vegetables.  This is an excellent supplement for the SBD books because it has beautiful pictures and recipes that are a step up from the menus in the original diet plans, and most are quick and easy to make.  Since that book was published, there have been more, updated versions – equally beautiful and with great new recipes, and I intend to purchase this one called Good Carb Meals in Minutes, which is geared for the latter phases of low-carb diets and appropriate for anyone who just wants to eat healthy, delicious meals and not spend an hour in the kitchen doing so.

My modified recipe takes about 30 minutes, so if you’re using a charcoal grill (which I prefer), light it up and get started.  Makes 6 burgers.

GATHER THIS:

  • 1 lb. package of ground chicken
  • 2 turkey sausage links, casings removed
  • 2 tablespoons refrigerated store-bought pesto sauce
  • coarse salt & fresh ground pepper, about 1/2 teaspoon each
  • 2 ripe plum tomatoes, chopped
  • 3 scallions, tops and bottoms trimmed, sliced
  • 1 tablespoon dressing from the Grilled Onion & Mushroom Salad with Arugula & Goat Cheese recipe
  • 6 slices Gouda cheese

DO THIS:

In a large bowl, gently mix together the ground chicken, ground sausage, pesto, salt and pepper.  Take care not to overwork the meat, as is it easy to toughen.  Form into 6 patties, about 4 inches in diameter and 1/2 inch thick. Place on a plate or platter and refrigerate until ready to grill and prepare side dishes.

Prepare topping:

In a medium bowl, mix together the tomatoes, scallions, and dressing. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Cook burgers: Heat grill to medium.  Oil the grates well with vegetable oil (chicken burgers stick easily). Grill patties, turning only once, about 6-8 minutes per side.  During the last minute of grilling, top burgers with Gouda slices, put cover on grill down until just melted.   Serve on toasted or grilled whole-wheat sandwich buns and top with tomato mixture.  Phase One dieters, serve without buns or open-face with one slice of toasted whole-grain bread.

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Filed under Grilling, Healthy Recipes, Italian-inspired, Kids Favorites, Quick & Easy, South Beach Phase 1

BLT in a Bowl: Salad for South Beach Cravers

I’ve been on South Beach Diet Phase One now for 2 weeks.  Having gone through the phases before, I get bored quickly with the recipes in the book.  Today, I was craving a BLT sandwich.  As the man says, “pork fat rules” (Emeril).  So, I concocted this simple salad to satisfy my craving.  Not only did it come together in five minutes – but it completely satisfied my desire for that delicious bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich that mom used to make – sans the bread.  The recipe that follows makes one serving.

GATHER THIS:

  • 4-5 thin slices good quality Canadian bacon
  • 2 Tablespoons reduced-fat Hellman’s mayonnaise
  • 2 Tablespoons 2% milk
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon each of coarse salt and fresh black pepper
  • 2 plum tomatoes, large dice
  • 2 cups greens, washed and dried, a choice of mesclun mix, romaine, or Boston lettuce

DO THIS:

Spray a non-stick skillet with cooking spray (or, alternatively, brush the bottom with a little vegetable oil).  Over medium heat, cook the bacon in the pan until just browned a bit, about 2 minutes per side.  Transfer to a paper plate or paper towel to cool slightly, then chop into 1/2 inch pieces. Set aside.

In a small bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, milk, lemon juice, salt, and pepper for your dressing.

Arrange greens in a serving bowl.  Spoon dressing over greens.  Top with chopped tomatoes and Canadian bacon.

Variations: add diced avocado, chopped hard boiled eggs, or cubed cheese (remember though, this adds more fat content and, in my opinion, is not necessary).   I may try a few slices of cucumber or red onion next time; but for a true craving, I wouldn’t want to interfere too much with the integrity of the original BLT.

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Filed under All Other Recipes, From My Own Kitchen, Healthy Recipes, Quick & Easy, South Beach Phase 1

5-Minute Broccoli Slaw for Grilling

It’s grilling season! I’m always looking for new side dishes that interest me more than the usual cole slaw and potato salad.  When you’re in a hurry, throw this great 5-minute broccoli slaw together and wait for friends and family to ask  for the recipe!  Kid-friendly, and healthy too. Great with grilled burgers, fish, and pork,  or alongside Mexican-inspired main courses.

GATHER THIS:

  • 1/3 cup Hellman’s light mayonnaise
  • 1/3 cup Daisy light sour cream
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 2 green onions, tops pulled off, trimmed, and sliced thinly on the diagonal
  • juice of 1 medium lime, freshly squeezed
  • 1-2 teaspoons sugar, to taste
  • coarse salt and fresh black pepper to taste
  • 10 oz. package of broccoli slaw mix (I like confetti slaw: red and green cabbage, broccoli, carrots)

DO THIS:

In a medium bowl, whisk together the first six ingredients.  Toss in the broccoli slaw mix.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Serve immediately, or chill for up to 30 minutes to allow flavors to meld.  Serves 4-6 as a side dish.

What I like best: quick, easy, delicious – and not too sweet – though you can use more sugar or some honey for a little more sweetness if desired.  For South Beach Diet Phase I, substitute Splenda for sugar.

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Filed under Budget Friendly, From My Own Kitchen, Grilling, Healthy Recipes, Mexican-inspired, Quick & Easy, South Beach Phase 1

Steve’s Off-the-Hook Seafood Linguine Alfredo

photo courtesy of T o n y at flickr.com

Need a comfort dish that’s gourmet enough for friends?  Look no further!  Make it as written by my foodie friend Steve, or with a few lightened-up modifications I suggest. You won’t be disappointed by either, and the best part? With all your seafood prepped, throw it together in 12 minutes!

Steve and I have known each other since high school and recently re-connected on Facebook.  He and his wife have a great appreciation for good food and wine – something, of course, near and dear to mine and my husband’s hearts.  While we still haven’t seen each other in person, we talk virtually about cooking; and about dishes that make our mutual network friends salivate.  When he posted about his “artery-clogging” comfort dish of Seafood Linguine Alfredo that he is famous for with family and guests,  I knew we would be foodie friends for a long time!

Steve was kind enough to share this recipe with me, knowing full well I would be reviewing it.  Now, readers… we all know that anything dubbed “alfredo” is not exactly in the diet books.  I figured it wasn’t going to be heart-healthy.  I saved making this one for my birthday treat, because I had plans to go back on to the South Beach Diet soon after making it.   What I wasn’t prepared for, was the proportion of the forbidden foods in his recipe (cream, butter, cheese).  Here is the original recipe, as he shared with me.

GATHER THIS:

  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Heavy cream (see below)
  • Butter (see below)
  • 1 lb uncooked, peeled & deveined shrimp
  • 1 lb bay scallops
  • 8 oz quality crab meat (no imitation)
  • 8 oz each Parmesan , Romano & Asiago cheeses
  • Salt, pepper, basil, oregano to taste
  • 1 lb. linguine noodles

DO THIS:

Cook the linguine noodles per package instructions and to your desired tenderness.  As your noodles are boiling,  cook your shrimp over medium heat in a stick of butter (he uses a wok for this – brilliant!) and 2-3 tbsp of olive oil. Season with salt, pepper, basil, and oregano.  When just about cooked, remove shrimp with slotted spoon into a medium bowl; set aside. Add again more butter, olive oil and seasonings.

Cook the bay scallops; when done, remove with slotted spoon and add to the bowl with the shrimp.  To pan or skillet –  again add another stick of butter, more olive oil and seasonings. Drain noodles.  Return noodles to pot, add in the cooked shrimp and scallops from the bowl.  Pour in the butter mixture, pour in the crab meat, pour in the heavy cream ( half a pint or so ).  Then, pour in all three grated cheeses, stir; add milk or cream until you have the right consistency. Serve immediately.

Steve and reader friends… this is a recipe for a bona fide food coma! While I have a true appreciation for all great food, wine, and the glory of  butter and cream – (remember, I’m married to a Frenchman) – I simply could not handle this recipe exactly the way in which he intended – others might.   The recipe itself is fantastic.  I just needed to lighten it up a bit to accommodate our own tastes.

I really wanted to remain loyal to the integrity of the recipe, to honor Steve’s claims that it is the best of the best.  So, I kept an open mind, even as I was preparing it.  I thought, “if I can fathom that an extra stick of butter will make this better, I will keep it in”.   For me, it just wasn’t necessary.  This recipe was decadent, even with a significant reduction in the amount of butter and cream.

My proportions were almost the same, with the exception of the butter and oil: I simply reduced the amount of each stick of butter by two-thirds (using approximately 3-4 tablespoons of butter in each panful), and only 1/2 tbsp of olive oil.  I also eliminated the “or so..” option of the heavy cream.  I used exactly one half-pint (small container) of heavy cream, and thinned with chicken stock a bit to acquire the desired saucy consistency.   The only other thing to note, is that since he didn’t specify the amount of (assumed) dried herbs to use, I used about 1/4 teaspoon of Italian seasoning blend for each batch of seafood that I sautéed.  Steve, if I did not get this right – I can edit!  The beauty of blogging.

So what’s the rating? This dish was delicious, no question.   Will I make it again?  Most definitely.  Especially because of the ease with which it came together.   Will I change anything? Yes, as follows:

  1. Reduce butter amounts as suggested above.
  2. Incorporate 1/4 cup white wine or 2 tablespoons of fresh squeezed lemon juice  into last step of tossing ingredients together to add a little brightness and thin the heaviness a bit.  Then I would garnish with a few thinly sliced lemons – it needs some color.  That being said, the general rule in presenting is that you shouldn’t garnish with an ingredient that hasn’t been used in the dish.
  3. Use sea scallops,  cartilage removed, cut into quarters or halves.  Sea scallops are more tender, sweeter – in general, a finer shellfish (albiet, more expensive). If you’re going to go all out with butter and cream, you may as well get the sea scallops…
  4. Reduce the amount of dried herbs used and add 1 tablespoon of fresh chopped basil in the last step. Garnish at the end with a sprig of basil for color.
  5. Use whole-wheat linguine pasta.  It is just as delicious, especially with this kind of recipe; and it will offset the less healthy ingredients giving you some nutritional value.
  6. Add some fresh chopped spinach to the last step – (Steve does this too) – the pasta will be hot enough to wilt the spinach and you will get a great nutritional addition to your meal.

All of my own personal recommendations aside,  Steve knows a good recipe – and that quality seafood is what it’s all about.  Regardless of how much cream or butter you use, the key to a great recipe is fresh ingredients. If you plan on going all out on a wonderful recipe such as this, don’t skimp by using imitation crabmeat or pre-cooked shrimp (the ultimate sin)!  Enjoy this with a nice, light mesclun salad of greens with a light vinaigrette and you won’t feel quite as guilty…  and to drink? I like a nice citrusy chardonnay or a young red pinot noir with this.

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Filed under Italian-inspired, Quick & Easy